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Family and Medical Leave Laws by State

It's difficult for most employees to take a long-term absence from work to care for a sick family member or welcome a new child into their home. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) attempted to make it easier. It allows employees to take extended job-protected time off for specific medical and family reasons. But the FMLA only provides unpaid leave.

However, the FMLA allows states to create their own family and medical leave laws that expand on the federal act. Several states have stepped in to fill that gap with paid family and medical leave (PFML). PFML is like FMLA, except the employee isn't left entirely without income during their leave.

Employers in states that don't offer PFML must follow FMLA guidelines. Where a state has both, the employer must follow the law that protects the workers most. To date, only a handful of states offer PFML. Family and medical leave policies vary across the states that offer it.

What Is the Family Medical Leave Act?

Congress passed the FMLA in 1993. It's a federal law administered by the US Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. The law allows eligible employees of covered employers to take 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the following:

  • The birth of a child
  • Care of a new child within one year of birth
  • The placement of an adopted or foster care child
  • Care of a newly placed adopted or foster child within one year of placement
  • Care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • The employee's own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform essential job functions
  • A qualifying exigency resulting from a spouse, child, or parent being a covered member of the armed services on active duty

Employees can also use FMLA leave to address their own serious health conditions.

An eligible employee who needs to care for a family member who is a covered service member can take 26 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave under FMLA.

What Is Job-Protected Leave?

FMLA provides job-protected leave, meaning the employee will get their job back when they return to work. They also keep their health insurance during their leave.

Who Is Eligible for FMLA Leave?

Eligible employees are those who work for a covered employer for 12 months. They must also have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months before their leave starts.

Not all employers fall under FMLA. Covered employers include public employers and some schools. FMLA also covers private employers who employed 50 or more workers for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year

Is Paid Sick Leave Part of FMLA?

No. Paid sick leave allows employees in some states to take paid leave for short-term medical needs and preventative care. FMLA is for long-term family and medical needs

What Is Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)?

The primary benefit of PFML is that it provides some income while the employee is on leave. The amount varies by state. It's often a percentage of the employee's weekly wage capped at a certain amount. In some states, the employee can take advantage of more than one program (e.g., disability insurance in conjunction with PFML).

State Examples

Besides providing income, state laws differ from FMLA in eligibility requirements and the length of the benefits.

  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) grants employees leave to care for their domestic partners. Its Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides up to eight weeks of pay to qualified workers who take leave to care for a family member. Eligible employees get up to 12 extra weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or a related illness under the state's Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) program.
  • The family leave policies in many states, such as Massachusetts and New York, provide leave care for grandparents. Rhode Island includes parents-in-law. And the District of Columbia covers all relatives by blood, custody, and marriage.
  • Eligibility in New York extends to all full-time and part-time workers who have worked 26 or more consecutive weeks for a covered employer.
  • Some state laws require paid sick leave and paid parental leave for eligible employees.

Colorado and some other states provide "safe leave." Safe leave is time off work to tend to medical and non-medical needs arising from situations like:

Learn About Family and Medical Leave Laws in Your State

Not all states offer PFML. And the policies vary widely across the states that do. The list below shows states with PFML. Click on your state in the map or list for state-specific family and medical leave information, including statutes, regulations, and general government resources.

States not on this list don't have PFML.

California Maine Rhode Island
Colorado Massachusetts Tennessee
Connecticut Minnesota Vermont
District of Columbia New Hampshire Washington
Hawaii New Jersey Wisconsin
Iowa New York    

If you are facing problems with paid family leave as an employer or employee, talk to an employment law attorney

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